THE MUSEUM REVOLUTION
By Roberto Concas
The birth of Digital Museology
For museums, the lockdown with the foreclosed physical spaces was an opportunity to enter the world of digital and online.
For many, the experience proved to be new and perhaps tiring, certainly unusual, as full of surprises and curiosities in a substantially unexplored terrain.
For what has happened, it is possible to affirm that an attention has spread that has taken on the profile of the need, such as that of the opportunity, up to that of the indispensability to operate in the new digital frontiers.
WHAT TO DO?
Now, for the world of museums there is only one question about “digital and online” systems: what to do?
In fact, although the many nuances, the problem manifests itself in its entirety and complexity, because digital thinking does not only mean being on social networks, having a site, or adding new multimedia technologies to the museum!
Moreover, one cannot “think” simply of translating museological and museographic experiences towards digital, because language, form, syntax, communication tools, methodologies and potentialities are completely different.
Furthermore, one cannot “think” that the specialist and scientific knowledge of the exhibits in their museums can be configured as the new digital museum offer, these skills are certainly indispensable, but also complementary.
Finally, one cannot “think” that technologies are the solution or the obstacle to finding one’s role in the digital museum offer.
So what to do?
Of course and first of all: Think Digital !!!
Thinking Digital is a process of reflection, method, study, application, where the parameters known up to now, be they museological, museographic, museum management and fruition, will have to be re-modulated in the unifying thought of what is now defined as “Digital Humanities”.
It is good to immediately point out that it is not a matter of “abandoning” or worse “repudiating” anything that has been done so far in the museum environment to choose other paths, but also not to carry along, in the new path, luggage and limits of experiences that have now made the their time.
One could suggest, in a computer language, to keep these experiences in remote archives and memories, but always available at all times for any need for philological continuity.
On the innovation of museums one could reason by paradoxes and say that the museums with showcases, captions, works, finds, explanatory panels, are “dead” museums as already those with fixed collections, which do not foresee some modifications in the layout, but are indispensable for designing and experiencing the museums of the new digital humanistic culture.
THE MUSEUM REVOLUTION
And again, paradoxically, one could say that modern museums open to the public were born with the French Revolution, just as the Museums of Digital and Online Humanities will be born from the post Coronavirus!
Never, as now, have our lives confronted and “comforted” in the digital and online world where the “revolution” has been directly experienced, rather than heard proclaimed, where knowledge, information, alarm like relaxation and in-depth analysis, our long hours “digitally” marked.
As with all “revolutions” there will be reactions, oppositions, observations, preconceptions, desires for the return to the “physical”, to the halls of museums, to the already known; but as has always happened in the past, the road of no return is now traced.
Museologically speaking, the revolution may have already been underway for some time, in a silent way, while the thought of Digital Humanities grows, evolves, collects contributions, opens up to new visions.
Now for museums it is necessary not to be found “unprepared” before the spread and then the possible spread of “digital and online thinking”, and it will not be a virus to overwhelm us, but rather a “viral” condition intended as collective participation!
THE DIGITAL MUSEOLOGY
This change will have to be managed by museums, possibly without interruption, so that values, history and experiences find their own natural evolution on strong roots.
The solution cannot be configured or delegated, as in the past for museums, in an architectural intervention, a restyling, an exhibition arrangement, a lighting solution, a technological increase, a diachronic rearrangement of the works, but much more is needed, a new “museological thought”!
For the new digital museology many specializations and subjects will play a role, some absolutely unpublished, which together will have to compete for this “museum revolution” for which the MiBATC is also preparing with its own 2019-2021 Three-year Plan for Digitization and Innovation of the Museums.